At the start of 2017, I had no idea minimalism would become so prominent in my life. I had been watching the documentary made by the Minimalists when the clothes rack in my closet collapsed due to the sheer weight of all the clothing I owned. This was the moment that would change the course of my life forever and allow me to experience some of the best memories I’ll ever have.
Recently, I stepped off a plane into the amazing world that is New York City. Growing up, I never imagined going somewhere so magnificent. New York seemed big, scary, and way out of my ballpark. On one hand, I dreamed of having an apartment in the Lower East Side and stopping at quiet coffee shops for a chai tea while I was on my way to my editing job at the New Yorker. On the other, I wasn’t good or rich enough to be found in a city like New York.
That all changed when minimalism entered my life. After years of spending the majority of my money on Starbucks and fast food, I reevaluated what the most important things to me were. Blowing hard earned money on unhealthy food I didn’t need was not important. All it did was eat up my paycheck and keep me from experiencing the things I wanted.
It was hard to get myself to stop right away. Every time I passed that Starbucks on my way to work, I wanted to pull over and buy more coffee. I always felt that, since I worked my eight hour shift, I should reward myself by stopping at Chick-fil-A or ordering a pizza once I got home. As I started paying attention to the damage this did to my bank account, I finally backed off of spending so much money.
The difference this made in my life was astonishing. Just to help you really understand what kind of a difference this made, I’ll give you some numbers. I was going to Starbucks at least every other day and bought fast food about every four days. At about $4.50 for a latte at Starbucks and $6.00 for a meal at one of my favorite fast food joints, I would have been spending about $112.50 a month on coffee and fast food. If I kept that up for an entire year, I would have been spending $1,350 dollars annually on coffee and fast food.
There are so many better things I could have been spending my money on than the instant gratification of food. With $1,350 dollars, I could have gone to about 50 general admission concerts. I could’ve gone grocery shopping 22 times. That money could’ve paid for two months of rent or my electricity bill for an entire year. I could’ve filled my gas tank 45 times. And if I can fill my gas tank 45 times, I could’ve traveled from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Los Angeles, California 7 and a half times. Do you see what I’m getting at?
“Do you want to waste your money on food or have the opportunity to see the world?”
The more I looked at these numbers, the more I wanted to save. I dedicated a set amount to savings every month. I started asking myself, “Do you want to waste your money on food or have the opportunity to see the world?” After a few months of dedicating my life to what I truly wanted instead of feeding into a consumerist ideology, I began traveling. I started small with cities like Wilmington, NC, Atlanta, GA, Raleigh, NC, Charleston, SC, and Washington, DC. This year, I’ll have New York, NY, Toronto, ON, and San Ignacio, Belize under my belt as well.
Being a minimalist has reminded me every day what my true values are. Clothes, food, and other material things just aren’t as important as the things that mean the most to you, and cutting those things out to focus on what’s worth your attention greatly impacts your way of life. For me, there was no better feeling than walking the streets of Manhattan, dreaming about a future there. No amount of Starbucks coffee, of clothes and shoes, of makeup or accessories can give you the euphoria that doing what you love will bring.
Marnie is a queer writer from South Carolina that focuses her work on poetry, minimalism, and positive living. Marnie’s poetry book “a black and white rainbow” about love, loss, and coming out can be purchased here.